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Lower Carb "Meaty" Baked Cauliflower Penne

A Fraction of the Carbs, Vegetarian, and Make Ahead!

Steak Entree

Talk about guilt-less comfort food! Who doesn't loved a baked pasta? The problem is how heavy, and carbo-loaded they usually are. So I replace the majority of the pasta with low carb cauliflower which also adds a ton of veg to your meal. 


I like to use 2 "Beyond Meat" burger patties because they have soooo much flavor. You can substitute them with chicken Italian sausage or any meat-like product you prefer. But I have tried many other things and these patties add the most savory umami flavor. 


Tomato Note: Don't skimp on cheaper canned tomatoes. A can of San Marzano tomatoes (Cento brand are great as well) will run you around $2-$2.50, a heck of a lot cheaper than a jar of pre-made pasta sauce. They're lower in acidity and have a unique taste, reducing your need for salt and other add-ins. Don't be fooled by cans that say "San Marzano Style", they aren't the same. You can easily make this ahead of time by a few days, or a few months. Yup! Its freezer friendly as well. 


(See *Make Ahead* directions below.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 beyond burgers (or 8 oz chicken italian sausage)

  • 1/2 large onion, diced

  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3/4 tsp Italian herb blend

  • 1/4 tsp black pepper or 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (if you like it spicier)

  • 1 -14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, with juices

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 2 tbsp tomato paste

  • 1 small head cauliflower, florests cut to small 2" bite size pieces

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 cup mozzarella, shredded

  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

  • 1 & 1/3 cup whole wheat penne, (112 grams)


Method:

Preheat oven to 350°, or if Making Ahead*, skip heating the oven now.

  1. Cut your cauliflower florets into bite-size pieces and wash well. Set aside.

  2. Cook your pasta according to package instructions, but cooking to the lower end of the time scale. For example, if your package says "cook 11-13 minutes", cook your pasta for 11 mins. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat a large pan to med high heat. Once hot sauté the burger patties, onion, and herb blend together, breaking up the "meat" with your spatula. Cook until onions are translucent, about 5-7 mins. Add in the garlic and cook a minute more.

  4. Pour in tomatoes (not strained), water, and tomato paste. Stir to combine. 

  5. Fold in all of the cauliflower and cover. Lower heat to med-low and cook 8-10 mins, or until cauliflower is tender but not cooked all the way through. Think "al dente".  Turn off the heat and fold in the cooked penne.

  6. In a medium bowl, mix together the mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

  7. In a 9x9 casserole dish spread out 1/2 the pasta mixture. Sprinkle 2/3 of the cheese mixture over that. Cover the cheese with remaining pasta mixture, and sprinkle on the last 1/3 of the cheese mixture. 

  8. Bake for 20mins. Allow to cool for 5 mins and serve with a side salad if you want to sneak in some extra veggies.

*Make Ahead: You can prep this casserole up to 3 days in advance. Make it through step 7, and allow it to come to room temp on your counter. Cover and refrigerate (or freeze). When you are ready to eat it, cook until the internal temp reaches 165°.